How to Eat Like a Yogi

A long time ago there was a yogini, Giri Bala who lived without food – Yogananda tells us in the in the Autobiography of a Yogi. At age 12 responding to her mothers-in-law taunts that she eats too much, Giri Bala with the help of her Guru stopped eating in order to prove that humans are sustained by spirit not matter.

To me, Ayurveda, as a holistic medicine practice, is related to yoga as another practice of cultivating connection with the universe, others and within. I am drawn to the view of eating as a cosmic event where elements collide.

There are too many conflicting accounts of yoga principles to account for here. The details are less important or interesting. The idea that I am a location where streams of cosmic energies like earth, water, fire and air whip up into a special climate is fascinating. My encounters with others shape my physical, emotional and spiritual environment, my personal reformed and reflected universe.  For example, spicy food can fuel my anger, yet energize another.

This is certainly not a medical prescription, for weight loss, Ayurveda is a way to use food as a spiritual practice.

Here are the principles worth considering:

  1. The principle of Power: Everything has qualities and powers.
  2. The principle of Balance: Like qualities increases like qualities and balancing requires inviting the opposite quality.
  3. The principle of Doshas: Eat things with qualities and powers that balance your constitution (inside)
  4. The principle of Seasons: Eat things according to the season (outside)

When we pay attention, we know when we’ve eaten too much or too little, we recognize that something is fighting us in our stomachs resulting in gas or heartburn, we know when something smells or feels wrong in our mouth. If we mindfully eat and digest, we feel when we need something heavy and grounding and when we need something light and soothing. Usually, we don’t eat mindfully or pay attention to our bodies, we eat with our eyes, our memories, our expectations and worse, our stress.

Your stomach is your internal universe that transforms matter into energy. What is it craving now?

Being Extra: the sauce of life

I am an extra.

I am a non-speaking character in a coffee shop background sipping coffee and staring at my laptop. There are raindrops on the windows, a blade of grass moving in the wind outside, cars moving past on the road, murmuring conversations, a large orange sculpture, a concrete floor, a sneeze, a ding, words, a child’s cry, salt and pepper shakers, iphones, mugs, music wafting above the hum of mid-morning conversations, a green shirt, smell of eggs and coffee, fingers on the keyboard, people behind the counter waiting, people behind the counter making lunch, yellow road signs, an itch on the neck, words on the wall, wood tables, metal chairs, stripes and me.

I don’t despair being an extra. Extras in books, movies or television are never credited with names, just actions, like, “shop keeper” or “crying child.” I am a silent actor in your story, a voiced actor in mine. You can only see my actions, my role as an extra. You don’t see my inner monologue, my struggles, my joys, my worries or my guilt. Recognizing that I am an extra in the world, a silent actor is surprisingly empowering. As you walk by my table where I type, I can trip you or smile, I may not change your story but I color it with my actions. I don’t have to be the main protagonist. The main character depends on the extra. That is the secret: we are all extras. Being extra. I came to see myself as an extra and found an extraordinary life. I stopped trying to be named, stopped trying to be the main character, a proper noun.

Philosophy, art, religions all try to address our longing to connect to something larger, more meaningful than us. This is another attempt. An extra attempt.

We all share the small things, like coffee cups, salt, phones, chairs and walls and the big, like cities, roads, landscapes, clouds, and water. How we focus shape how our individual perspectives live and interact. You are an extra in the stories of almost everyone you meet today. You can probably count the people in your life who are essential on your fingers.

You are an extra.

Moving beyond identity politics, religion, gender, into object-hood into being extra. Being both more and less. Being Extra.

Depending on your outlook you could interpret the title “Being Extra” as either as being more, extraordinary or being waste, extraneous. We are always both: extraordinary and extraneous. It depends on your taste.

I arrived at this question when reading Adolf Loos’ modernist manifesto Ornament and Crime. All sauces he said was ornamental. The modern man eats roast beef. From my South Asian perspective, beef was ornamental, mostly used as a flavoring for curries and only the main component twice a year, weddings and celebrations when a sacrifice was offered. Always ritualized and associated with a momentous occasion.

Adolf Loos’ food example to explain modern architecture and design stuck in my thoughts.

What are your favorite sauces? Your favorite extras? Do you add spicy hot sauce to your dishes, maybe sweet-salty honey mustard, or maybe tart-sweet bbq sauce? How do you flavor your life?

Dessert is always extra, more than, beyond functional, ornamental and as a habit, dangerously unhealthy. Maybe that’s why we crave it. A British Toffee Pudding Cake draped in sweet toffee sauce is definitely extra. Here is a recipe.

Wishing you extra,





Magical New Year of Eating

Happy to be back here, sitting on my red chair looking out from our end of the cul-de-sac through the picture window,  writing to you and with you. I’m excited to report that I ate so well and so intently that I have MUCH to share with you the coming weeks. By virtue of this blog I will savor the two weeks of vacation for another four weeks. Gosh, I so enjoy eating, cooking, reading and writing that have the ability to make time go fast and slow. Magic.

The first discovered taste I’d like to share is this:

Kaboom Books in Houston, where I found this:


What! It was such a magical discovery for THE HUNGRY PHILOSOPHER …..that I started talking about myself in third person!!!

A fun and thoughtful read that proclaims the spirituality of food. Here are a few excerpts:

“The umbilical cord between yourself and the world is the cooking pot. We pass reality through it, and it is indicative of the sort of world we live in. It is a crucible, an alembic in which we are linked with the world, magically if you like.”

“Herbs and spices do for your dishes what grace does for your actions — they give them zest and an inner meaning. The graceless life is the life which has lost it savour.”

“Salvation is to love something real rather than merely having an idea of right or of money or of liberty or whatever. Cooking is a great opportunity for love and therefore salvation. Love the leisure of the simmering pot and the long drawn out thought of the people you wish to please. For God’s sake don’t throw a commonwealth of meat and vegetables into the pot and clamp the lid on in order to have time to look over the agenda for the next meeting. It is the love of ideas which makes us cruel and not the love this bit of meat, these potatoes, this child or wife or husband.”

Hope all of you hungry-philosophers out there had a wonderful winter holiday surrounded by love and good food.

I wish you the magic of eating that makes your world a graceful and kinder place.

More later.


Food as Gift, Interview with Thai Essence Chef Ake Waratap, West Lafayette, Part 3 of 3


 (con’t) Thai Essence, Chef Ake’s insistence on intention, quality, energy and heart is palpable. When asked what would he considers his ‘signature’ dish, he refused to answer with a single dish. Every dish, he said, is made with care. In order to “show” me his philosophy, he pulled out some julienned ginger, thin slices of red and green pepper. “You have to feel it, like cutting through your own skin, smooth slices, no chopping,” he beams. Cooking is not about speed that bruises ingredients, or sloppy wasteful whimsy. It is intentful, considered and respectful. He shows me a beautifully carved radish flower (I am shocked to hear that he learned how to do all his vegetable and fruit carving on his own over YouTube!) and says that he was asked, “Why do we take the time to do this when most customers don’t even notice?” In response, he had answered that the flower is a symbol of care and even if only a few customers notice, it is still worth the effort. So instead of a signature dish to show us his philosophy, chef Ake offers us intricately carved flowers, precisely sliced vegetables, carefully concocted sauces and only by default deliciously executed dishes. As I suspected, he is an exemplar of an object-oriented practice invested in the recognition and respect of each thing as a gift.

True to material thinkers, Chef Ake continues to be fascinated by things and processes that fuel or challenge his commitment to gastronomic appreciation. For example, he is deeply concerned by buffet formats of serving that threaten attention to quality, care and detail. Similarly, he is excited by current farm to table philosophies that respect local ingredients and their producers. He recently returned from an exploration of ramen making in Japan. Curiosity and generosity seem to be driving principles in his food thinking and travels. The major drawback of his attention to detail and personal care is that he has little time to pursue and cultivate his wide range of interests. Creative people suffer this dilemma that leads to frustration or burnout all too frequently. Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister famously takes a “sagmeister” by closing down his office for a year, every seven years. The famed chef of El Bulli, Ferran Adria closed his celebrated Michelin-starred restaurant and instead launched a “food think tank.” I sincerely hope Chef Ake finds a way to sustain his spirit of learning and experimentation. In the meantime, for those of you in the area, I encourage you to meet Chef Ake and visit his restaurant for a regular meal and then a special event (when he experiments with techniques and menu items). Traditional eastern cuisines in the West are both difficult and easy to innovate depending on the gastronomic experience level of the guests. This challenge makes the experimental special events at Thai Essence so fascinating to me. Thank you for sharing your philosophy of food as gift with us, Chef Ake.

Looking forward to many delicious experiments ahead,


Dear Fellow Food Philosophers,

I am collecting food philosophies through three guiding and loose questions:

  1. Consumption: What are your memories of food?
  2. Production: What are your guiding principles for making food?
  3. Demonstration: What would show your philosophy of food?

Please contact me, if you (or anyone you know…..anyone who is involved in making food…not just chefs) would like to share your philosophy with me. Thank you!

Food as Gift – Interview with Chef Ake, Thai Essence, West Lafayette, Indiana : part 2 of 3

(con’t) Chef Ake’s early culinary career as a cook, as a caterer and private chef was fueled with the deep belief in food as a precious gift to be shared. He spent his time generously, he cooked extra portions and a variety of foods, all in an effort to make people feel nurtured. He wanted everyone to feel that they had more than enough to eat (the opposite of his childhood limitations). This spirit of generosity served him well by attracting the goodwill of his customers who happily received his culinary gifts. He managed to translate his childhood moments of “slow” consumption, of making enjoyment last, into making food worthy of slow considered eating. Attentive consumers, one could argue, make attentive makers. Chef Ake’s story reminds me of how designer Raymond Loewy speaks of Biberin, a French drink powder, in his autobiography as his first awareness of passion. After all, how can one reproduce a feeling for others without having experienced it oneself?

The lack of Thai food restaurants drew him and Nan to West Lafayette. If “food as gift” sums up his lessons as a consumer, then “we care” is his primary restaurant philosophy. With no formal culinary schooling, his insistence on detail, caring and learning is evident in every aspect of the restaurant. As we walked through the kitchen, he proudly showed me every spotless detail of the kitchen he and Nan designed. His equipment now five years old looks sparkling new. The screws in the mis-en-place tables are cleaned with pins! All sauces are made in house, what is purchased is of high quality. He only serves what he would eat himself. And, from what I saw, his standards are quite high.

Next time, he shows us his philosophy of “intentful” cooking.

Dear Fellow Food Philosophers,

I am collecting food philosophies through three guiding and loose questions:

  1. Consumption: What are your memories of food?
  2. Production: What are your guiding principles for making food?
  3. Demonstration: What would show your philosophy of food?

Please contact me, if you (or anyone you know…..anyone who is involved in making food…not just chefs) would like to share your philosophy with me. Thank you!

Patron Philosopher of the Stomach


Epicurus, the Foodies’ Philosopher by Michael Symons*

“Epicurus is often viewed as responding to Plato virtually point for point. He reinverted Plato’s world (as Marx would do with Hegel’s), making the opposite case at every level, physically, ethically, and epistemologically. The secret is that, for Epicurus, the belly ruled the mind, rather than vice versa. Head and stomach should perhaps work together, although materialism is hard to avoid if we believe, along with Epicurus, that philosophy has ultimately to serve practical needs. So, rather than pursue knowledge of its own sake, Epicurus wanted useful knowledge, which helped remove unnecessary personal burdens……..Of immediate interest to gourmets, Epicurus up-ended Plato by distinguishing the finite hunger of the stomach from endless desires, including for new taste experiences, which he blamed on the “ungrateful greed of the soul.” That is, an epicurean was to obey the stomach, rather than the soul’s hunger for novelty, which would never be satisfied.”

While I want to qualify Symons’ account of Plato and extol the virtues of an unsatisfied soul, the essay helps begin to  explain the philosophical attraction/repulsion of food (a question I sort of asked in the previous post about the proliferation of food festivals). According to Symons’ account of Epicurus:

  1. Food insists on the importance of the everyday, the mundane and the terrestrial, the transient need for animal survival.

“His [Epicurus’] moral system took off from his hedonism – so that right and wrong did not come from on high, but proved themselves by the everyday contentment they produced.”…………… i.e. nothing makes a bad day go away better than a good meal in good company.

  1. Eating well exercises living well or rather living a “good” balanced life.

“The beginning and root of all good is the pleasure of the stomach; even wisdom and culture must be referred to this” quotes Symons of Epicurus.

  1. Who you eat with is more important that what you eat.

“You must reflect carefully beforehand with whom you are to eat and drink, rather than what you are to eat and drink. For a dinner of meats without the company of a friend is like a life of a lion or wolf.”

If eating well everyday in good company defines a good life guided by the principle of conviviality then I have a pretty good life. I feel reassured. Good essay!